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Hey, Wha Happen? Penn State 16, Virginia 17

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It's a funny thing, how a win gives you a warm, content feeling. Winning makes you forget a bad throw or a missed assignment. A Penn State win means the economy suddenly isn't all that bad. Winning truly is the world's best deodorant.

Losing? Losing is pure, foul-smelling disgust. A loss is a pain inducing foul odor; Act of God offensiveness that can only be found in a dumpster roasting beneath a red hot sun. A loss makes you see an extra 10 pounds on your significant other that isn't really there.

Yet, here we are, with a second loss that is even more inexplicable than the first. The University of Virginia players poured onto the field as Sam Ficken's final field goal attempt sailed 10 yards wide left, celebrating their theft of a game that they had no business taking.

The game itself, except for an offensive amount of orange typically reserved only for Netherlands soccer games, had all the sounds of a Guido D'Elia produced Penn State home game. That is, Zombie Nation chant was out in force, and, perhaps owing to Craig Fitzgerald's influence, Guns 'n Roses' 'Welcome to the Jungle' was prominently featured. Apparently that was a thank you from the Virginia administration to the Penn State faithful, who eagerly gobbled up all of the tickets, and covered a third of the stadium in white. It was UVa's largest home attendence since the Barber twins were upsetting Flordia State.

The Good

  • The offense again displayed the ability to sustain drives. They took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 17 plays - seventeen plays - for a touchdown. They had 5 drives of 10 plays or more.
  • Of Penn State's 12 possessions on offense, 9 reached plus territory.
  • Four of those 9 possessions began in Virginia territory, thanks to a defense that produced turnovers and sacks.
  • That defense, after allowing an RB to gain +100 yards last week, held Virginia to 32 yards rushing on 28 attempts (note: sacks deduct from rushing yards in college). Much ballyhoo'd Virginia RB Perry Jones had a large target on his chest, and finished with 28 total yards on 14 touches (rushes and catches).
  • Allen Robinson laid out for a beautiful touchdown reception of 30 yards - Penn State's most explosive play to date.
  • Curtis Dukes made an appearance at tailback, and ran with purpose.
  • Our coaches have gigantic cojones. O-B doesn't coach like he's afraid to lose, or afraid of what the TV talking heads will mouth. The fake punt from near mid-field was beautiful.

The Bad

  • Sustained drives are great, but dang are they hard to make. They take nearly flawless execution, with zero penalties. Negative plays, like dropped passes and tipped balls, are killers. Of Penn State's 5 drives of 10 plays or more, the offense earned just 7 points.
  • The defense forced turnovers - but we couldn't do anything with them. And the sacks - 2 by freshman Deion Barnes - mostly came when the opponent blew an assignment. That is, the sacks aren't coming because Lawrence Taylor is just better than everyone else. And when you have to scheme your way to sacks, you open yourself up to...
  • Blown assignments in the secondary. And really, it isn't just the secondary. It also includes linebackers who don't get out on the RB out of the backfield, and linebackers who struggle to carry the TE to the third level.
  • We did not handle blitz situations very well, and we don't have a single RB that is effective in blitz pickup. Brandon Beachum, we miss you. Billy Belton had misses last week, and this week it was Derek Day. Maybe that's why Zack Zwinak was the RB of choice on the last drive of the game.

The Ugly

  • Sorry, Sam. Keep your chin up. Everybody has bad days. And by the time this post gets published, your allotted time for self-loathing will have expired. So get your ass back out there. Keep swinging your leg, find your stroke, and repeat it.

This excruciating one-point loss to Rodger Daltrey and the Hoos was painful. But it was not boring. It was not filled with mistakes and mental errors. I didn't throw my remote or scream WTF?! at my dog. Instead, for three hours we got to watch 70 kids strap it on for Penn State, play with pride and guts, and leave it all on the field for each other. We're officially oh-and-two, now. But I'd take this 2012 squad over any of the Penn State squads from the last two years, every day of the week, and twice on Saturday.

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